In high school American Civ, I never imagined the legislative process could be interesting.
Last year was an exciting time to be a bike/ped advocate because of the federal transportation bill, MAP-21. It was a roller coaster ride of attacks and advocacy alerts. Did we succeed or fail? Bike/ped funding is half what it used to be, so some think we failed. But we saved bike/ped funding at all in the face of attacks from powerful House leadership! That may signal a change in attitude about the legitimacy of bicycling and walking.
This year’s battleground is on the state level with MoDOT’s quest for reliable and adequate funding. The proposed 1% sales tax will be historic because it incorporates bicycling and walking into our transportation funding system for the first time ever. (Most of my information—and interpretation of events—is from MoBikeFed. This is why I’m a member—and why I donate annually!)
Currently, bike/ped facilities by law receive no funding from the state road fund. The new law will fund transportation, not just roads and bridges. In addition to roads and bridges, transportation will include mass transit, railroad, waterway, aviation, and bike/ped.
Will that mean an increase in bike/ped funding? Probably, although there’s no guarantee. What it does mean is that bike/ped funding will no longer be subject to annual debate in the legislature and a yearly act of congress.
The 1% sales tax proposal seemed to have solid support in the Senate and we thought the tricky part would be getting it through the House. We had mixed feelings about a move to tack on a 15% set-asidefor transit and bike/ped. While a positive move for bike/ped, the 15% set-aside could hurt its chances of passing the voters.
You see, if it passes the House and Senate and is signed by the Governor, it won’t be a law yet. Missouri voters will then decide in November if it will be law. All this activity is just to get it on the ballot! Anything that complicates the bill will confuse voters. So I wasn’t too disappointed when the 15% set-aside amendment wasn’t even debated in the House. Simply talking about the 15% set-aside did a lot to raise awareness of bike/ped issues.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t in the House that the 1% sales tax stumbled. It passed the House on Tuesday in a split non-partisan vote of 100 to 57. (Kirksville’s Rep. Nate Walker voted for it!) With that out of the way, we breathed a sigh of relief. The Senate vote should be practically a formality. But no one expected a filibuster!
I have to leave you with that cliff hanger, but I don’t know the final outcome yet. The bill has been filibustered in the Senate but negotiations are hot and heavy as the end of the session looms near (Friday). Will we vote on a 1% sales tax in November? Or will MoDOT crumble, along with our highways and our hopes for bike/ped?